The Life of a Vegetarian: Getting Protein in Your Diet
You may have chosen to eat a strictly vegetarian diet for ethical reasons, or perhaps you appreciate the health benefits of going meat-free. Either way, one of the biggest challenges of a vegetarian diet is getting adequate protein in each meal. Malnutrition commonly affects vegetarians who do not eat a nutritionally-balanced diet. Continue reading for some food items help keep adequate protein in your vegetarian diet.
1. Rice and beans make a perfect combination to provide you with a complete, vegetarian protein. Meat protein contains a complete group of different amino acids that supply your body with essential nutrients. Neither rice nor beans contain all the essential amino acids, but when you combine the two, you get the complete set of amino acids. This creates a nutritionally-complete protein source.
2. Quinoa is known to some people as the super grain, because of the high degree of nutrition it provides. This grain has been used as a diet staple for centuries, and it contains enough amino acids to make up a complete protein. Quinoa contains a high amount of protein compared to other grains, and it has many health benefits in addition to a delicious, slightly crunchy taste.
3. Tofu is a great addition to any vegetarian diet. It is high in complete protein, and comes in several different forms. You can buy plain tofu in soft, medium and firm textures. This makes it ideal for addition to any food item, from sauces and stir fries to “meat” dishes.
4. Tofurkey, seitan and other “meat” products make great protein additions to your vegetarian diet. These gluten-based products taste great, and help you work other types of vegetarian protein into your diet rather than relying strictly upon soy. Over time, some people develop a sensitivity to soy if it comprises a too-large component of their diet.
5. Frozen “meats,” such as vegetarian hot dogs and corn dogs, veggie burgers, “chicken” tenders and other food items make simple, quick ways to add protein to your vegetarian meal plan. These frozen foods are usually made with a soy protein base, and offer many delicious alternatives to help increase your dietary protein.
If you choose to go vegetarian, it is very easy to fall into eating habits that are less than optimal. Cookies, pies, cakes and donuts are too easy to fall back on, and filling up on these items can leave your diet un-balanced and lacking in protein and other important nutrients. It is important to include a wide variety of healthy foods that can provide you with all the nutrients your body needs. As a vegetarian, you can also supplement your diet with mixed amino acid supplements, although these do not take the place of protein from food sources.
Choosing the vegetarian lifestyle can provide you with glowing health; it can also result in a pasty complexion and an under-nourished body if not done correctly. As you can probably see, there are many options available to get vegetarian protein into your daily meals. Experiment with some of the options above, and see how much energy you have with your new, improved vegetarian diet.